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The Prime Minister is understood to be planning a controversial move that could jeopardise the EU treaty signed in January and stoke tension in Northern Ireland. Sections of the internal market bill, due to be published on Wednesday, are expected to “eliminate the legal force of parts of the withdrawal agreement” in areas including state aid and Northern Ireland customs.
This is the fatal flaw in the cunning plan of the Brexit extremists in Tories and DUP
The reports have been met with outrage from politician on both sides of the Irish border but Alliance Party MP Stephen Farry warned the move could also hit a future trade relationship between the UK and USA.
Mr Farry said: “This is the fatal flaw in the cunning plan of the Brexit extremists in Tories and DUP.
“Their big dream is a comprehensive UK-US trade deal.
“There is absolutely zero chance of this being ratified by a Democrat Congress or negotiated with a Biden presidency if the Good Friday Agreement is harmed.”
US congressional leaders and diplomats have always warned any future US-UK trade deal would almost certainly be blocked if Brexit affects the Irish border and jeopardises peace in Northern Ireland.
Richard Neal, co-chair of the 54-strong Friends of Ireland caucus in Congress and chairman of the powerful House ways and means committee, said last year: “The American dimension to the Good Friday agreement is indispensable.
“We oversee all trade agreements as part of our tax jurisdiction.
“I would have little enthusiasm for entertaining a bilateral trade agreement with the UK, if they were to jeopardise the agreement.”
Pete King, the Republican co-chair of the Friends of Ireland group, said endangering Ireland’s open border was a “needless provocation”.
He said: “I would think anyone who has a strong belief in Northern Ireland and the Good Friday agreement the open border would certainly be willing to go against the president.”
The Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, has said that a US-UK trade deal has “no chance whatsoever” of passing in Congress if the Good Friday Agreement is undermined in any way.
And an adhoc committee of former members of Congress and foreign policy officials warned: “All of Irish America will support the Speaker right down the line.”
A Washington-based EU diplomat said: “I think there is enough meat in the Irish-American lobby to stop a UK trade deal if the Good Friday Agreement is affected.”
As part of the terms of the existing Northern Ireland Protocol contained within the withdrawal agreement, the region is expected to continue to follow some EU rules after the transition period ends in 2021 to ensure there is no hard border.
But there are fears this could be over-ruled under the new legislation proposed by Mr Johnson.
Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said the reported development would be “a very unwise way to proceed”.
And senior members of Northern Ireland’s Sinn Fein and SDLP parties, the region’s two largest Irish nationalist groups were also quick to condemn the plan.
Northern Ireland deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill warned any threat of backtracking on the protocol would be a “treacherous betrayal which would inflict irreversible harm on the all-Ireland economy and the Good Friday Agreement”.
Ms O’Neill stressed the need for the protocol to be fully implemented as soon as possible and to “avoid any border in Ireland”.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the Government would be undermining the Good Friday Agreement, risking the future of the UK and destroying its own credibility on the world stage if it proceeded with one of the most “reckless” acts concerning Ireland by a British government “in a long long time”.
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Mr Eastwood said: “It’s absolutely astonishing that any government who says they want to go and do trade deals around the world would just rip up an agreement that they made a few months ago with the European Union.
“And what they would be doing in that would be undermining the Good Friday Agreement which is an agreement voted for by the vast majority of people on the island of Ireland, they’d be risking a hard border in our country and they’d be threatening the peace and security that we’ve built up over decades.
“It would be the most reckless act that a British government – and they’ve made many reckless acts in Ireland – in a long, long time and if they do this their international credibility I think would be shot to pieces.”
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